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News & Advocacy

International organizations call for immediate release of Latin Grammy-winning musician Maykel Osorbo


Cuba: International organisations demand the immediate release of Latin Grammy-winning musician Maykel Osorbo and an immediate halt to the violation of his human rights

Photo: Anyelo Troya

Maykel Castillo Pérez, better known as Maykel Osorbo, Cuban musician, rapper, and leading member of the San Isidro Movement, has recently been awarded two Latin Grammy Awards for co-authoring and performing "Patria y Vida", and has been imprisoned since May 2021 in the maximum-security prison 5 y medio, in Pinar del Rio.

Recently, Castillo began to show alarming symptoms of deteriorating health. From prison, Castillo sent a message of gratitude for the award. In retaliation, and despite his delicate state of health, the Cuban authorities have sanctioned Maykel by isolating him from his family for three months.

"We condemn the mistreatment that Maykel Castillo Pérez is receiving in prison, unjustly imprisoned for exercising his right to artistic freedom and freedom of expression. Once again, we demand his immediate release and proper medical attention. The Cuban authorities are implementing cruel methods to silence him that are clearly in violation of human rights. We recall that, in just three years, more than 120 repressive acts of all kinds have been committed against Osorbo in an attempt to intimidate him from expressing his demands for fundamental rights and freedoms. Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right and should not be criminalized," said the Artist at Risk Connection of PEN America, CADAL, Freedom House, Freemuse, PEN International, and Prisoners Defenders.

“In Maykel's current situation it is imperative that we continue to communicate with him to ascertain his state of health. The denial of medical care constitutes an act of extreme cruelty and a further violation of his human rights. Numerous such cases demonstrate that Cuban political prisoners are denied reliable medical care within the country”

Anamely Ramos, activist and member of the San Isidro Movement

Castillo was arrested on May 18, 2021 while at home and subjected to enforced disappearance for 14 days. In the last 3 years, Castillo has suffered at least 121 repressive police acts of all kinds, including multiple arrests. On September 24, 2018, he was arrested after performing at a concert in which he and other rappers publicly opposed Decree 349, a law that, by regulating all artistic expression in Cuba, silences those that are against the government.

Castillo is also one of the founders of the Movimiento San Isidro (MSI), a group of Cuban artists and intellectuals founded in 2018 to protest against state censorship of artistic, literary, or journalistic works and to defend freedom of expression in Cuba.

On February 11, 2021, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) granted precautionary measures in favor of 20 members of the MSI, including Castillo, after considering that, as human rights defenders, they are at serious and urgent risk of suffering irreparable harm to their rights. Castillo has not had access to a fair trial and, according to the testimony of his relatives, is receiving threats from the authorities inside the prison.

Castillo has been named a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International and his case has been submitted to the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances by Prisoners Defenders in a complaint supported by a number of international organizations.

PEN International recently included Castillo in its international Day of the Imprisoned Writer campaign, in which PEN centers around the world spoke out about his unjust detention. On November 18, CADAL launched a petition calling for the Perez's release, arrested on May 18 on charges of "resistance, contempt, and disobedience." Similarly, Freemuse has included Castillo's case in actions aimed at making his situation more visible, with the “tRAPped" campaign, which seeks to raise awareness about the harassment and persecution that rappers suffer around the world because of their artistic expressions.

The emblematic persecution of Castillo is yet another example of the Cuban government's systematic repressive policy on freedom of expression through the persecution of critical voices. State-generated violence and the number of arbitrary arrests against activists and civilians have increased sharply over the past year, reaching an all-time high in July with government attacks on peaceful demonstrators.

Released on December 3, 2021

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